Winning tip: Hot tubs and cold rivers, Northern Ireland
For our first night out together in over six months since having a baby we travelled to Galgorm resort and spa, near Ballymena. My husband pulled out all the stops and reserved a riverside hot tub. Hopping from the hot tub to refill my glass he lost his balance and tumbled backwards into the river Maine. I had a beautifully uninterrupted night’s sleep in a giant comfy bed, while he lay flat on the floor nursing a bruised coccyx.
The man in the mask, Venice
Photograph: Luca Bruno/AP
A furious row with my boyfriend on Valentine’s Day in St Mark’s Square led to me storming off and getting caught up in a masked carnival parade in the streets, part of the Mardi Gras. We were also in costume and thought I saw my boyfriend so, regretting my actions, I shouted “sorry” and kissed him. He kissed me back, passionately, silently, and we got caught up in the moment for a while. Then we ran alongside a canal holding hands and embraced again. He drew breath to tell me I was “fantastica, bellissima, stupenda”, before revealing his face as a handsome Italian young man.
Carnival capers in Madeira
I love Madeira’s festivals and applied to participate in Funchal’s Mardi Gras carnival, which coincided with Dia dos Namorados (Valentine’s Day). Sparkly costume fitted, I attended rehearsals, eventually mastering a passable salsa. The day dawned. Shimmying through the main square as part of a throng of exuberant dancers, I felt a sharp tug at my rear. Someone had accidentally trodden on my flowing “unicorn tail”, pulling it, together with my sequined skirt, right off. From the watching crowd, a gallant man proffered his jacket to cover my embarrassment … That gent and I return annually to Funchal to celebrate a “tale” with a happy-ever-after ending.
Forest of Dean (and din), Gloucestershire
A rally car on the Crabtree stage of the 2016 Wyedean Rally in the Forest of Dean. Photograph: Alamy
For my first Valentine’s with my boyfriend, I booked what I thought would be a romantic weekend break in the Forest of Dean. The first day we went out for a peaceful stroll through the woods hoping to see some woodland wildlife and hear the tranquil sounds of singing birds. We were abruptly met by the dreadful din of dozens of revving cars racing through the forest. There was an off-road rally going on all weekend.
Surrey Hills passion killer
Tanners Hatch Youth Hostel, Polesdon Lacey. Photograph: Alamy
For a getaway, my mother-in-law booked me and my husband a stay in a beautiful rustic cottage in the Surrey Hills. What she didn’t realise was that the beautiful spot was a youth hostel and that she had booked us into dormitories. Luckily, peaceful walks and evenings spent drinking wine by the cosy log fire of YHA Tanners Hatch was just what we needed, even if retiring to our male and female dormitories at the end of the night hampered our more romantic aspirations.
Lake District sartorial error
We planned a romantic spa/hiking break in the Lakes including a meal at a top-class restaurant. We arrived at the airport only to be told we were late and had missed the bag drop so we could only take one piece of hand luggage each. We had packed a huge suitcase full of hiking gear. It seemed impossible to cram all of that into our two small rucksacks so we ended up throwing on as many clothes as we could and ran through the airport in our hiking boots just in time to make the final call. Once we finally arrived at our beautiful hotel in Windermere, we had a very quick turn around to be ready for our dinner at the much lauded Porto. I pulled my crumpled dress from the rucksack as Joe fumbled through his, checking, checking and checking again for his evening clothes. He’d left them in the suitcase back at the airport. We arrived at the beautifully romantic restaurant, fresh roses on the table and candles lit, surrounded by immaculate couples and then there was my boyfriend, dressed top to toe as if he were about to hike 10 miles and attracting funny looks.
Affair of the heart, Kenya
Kenyan safari camp. Photograph: Alamy
We were lucky enough to spend Valentine’s night on safari in Kenya. The tables were beautifully decorated with the centrepiece of an ornate wooden heart. After the meal I was adamant about bringing the heart home as a souvenir and took it back to our room. A week later I happened to glance at it as hundreds of little black insects started emerging from inside. Needless to say we decided to leave our heart in Kenya.
New York indelibly on my mind
Ice-skating at Rockefeller Center, New York City. Photograph: Getty Images
I went with my wife to New York for Valentine’s Day and had booked a fancy restaurant for lunch. Unfortunately, due to a boozy evening the night before, our romantic meal was marred by my wife’s feeling the worse for wear. She was uncomfortable visiting the restaurant’s loo, as it was so open plan, so we left our unfinished lunch to trudge through the snow to find an alternative. Having slogged our way to Rockefeller Center, my wife proceeded to throw up in the snow, to the horror of hundreds of romantic couples and skaters.
Aphrodisiac mishap, Paris
Photograph: Getty Images
When I was at uni my boyfriend whisked me away to France for a romantic Valentine’s to remember. However, it is memorable for all the wrong reasons. Upon consuming our aphrodisiac oysters at dinner, my boyfriend started to feel strange and he had to be rushed to hospital. He was unaware he was highly allergic to oysters. We spent our romantic night in a French A&E.
Sri Lankan love bite
The beach of the Lighthouse Hotel Galle. Photograph: Alamy
Many years ago I stayed with my partner at the Lighthouse Hotel, Galle, Sri Lanka. There was an option of booking a private candlelit dinner in a beach cove and we booked for 14 February, deliberately making no reference to Valentine’s Day. The day before, staff told me that because the 14th was a special day, we’d be sharing our experience with others. I asked to see the manager, pre-warning my partner there would be crocodile tears. To stop my pleading and sobbing, the manager eventually agreed to set up a private table in an adjacent cove. After a splendid meal including fresh lobster, I got my comeuppance – having tucked my skirt into my knickers for a post-dinner paddle, my legs got bitten to death.
Glacier exposure, Iceland
Photograph: Daisy Belle Craydon
We went away to Iceland last Valentine’s Day. We hadn’t been together for very long and it was our first holiday as a couple. Almost like the first real love test. I took footwear that was practical but not especially very grippy. We went for a walk to explore a glacier and over I went. It wasn’t just a fall on the snow, but it was the impact of the landing that caused me to get embarrassed. My jeans ripped open on my bottom and my coat didn’t cover me, and I also broke wind loudly.
Daisy Belle Craydon